ATLANTA, Georgia — Some 300 protest rallies were held worldwide ahead of a last-ditch parole board hearing for US death row inmate Troy Davis, whose planned execution sparked an international movement.
Davis is set to be executed September 21 for the 1989 shooting death of a police officer in Savannah, Georgia, but his supporters say there is strong evidence supporting his claim of innocence.
A vast protest rally marched through downtown Atlanta late Friday, ending their demonstration at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual center of the civil rights movement in the 1960s under Martin Luther King.
It was standing room only at the church after the march, and at least 1,000 people had to be turned away, church member Marvin Brinson told AFP.
Rallies for Davis started earlier in Hong Kong and carried on throughout the day in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia, said Laura Moye, the Death Penalty Abolition campaign director for Amnesty International USA.
Another 10 events were held in France on behalf of Davis, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection next week at a prison in Jackson, Georgia, south of Atlanta.
On Thursday, petitions with 663,000 names were handed to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles urging clemency. The board convenes Monday to consider the case.
Around 200 people chanted "free Troy Davis" and "what do want? Justice! when do we want it? Now!" at a rally held outside President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in Chicago.
One woman held a handmade-sign that said "Hey Obama take a stand! Don't let Georgia kill an innocent man."
The parole board is made up of five members and it takes a simple majority to decide a case.
"We hope the message they hear is that there is too much doubt in this case," Moye said. "Can we even rely on the conviction of Troy Davis? Can we be sure we are not going to execute someone who is innocent?"
In the more than two decades that he has been in jail for the murder of white police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, Davis, who is African-American, has maintained his innocence.
Seven of the nine witnesses who gave evidence at his trial in 1991 have recanted or changed their testimony.
No murder weapon was ever found, no DNA evidence or fingerprints tie Davis to the crime, and other witnesses have since said the murder was committed by another man -- a witness who testified against Davis.
The case has became internationally famous as the face of what critics call a corrupted justice system in the deep US south, with a black man wrongly and hastily convicted of killing a white officer.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Tanya Greene said the events will carry on over the weekend, saying there were busloads of people arriving from the suburbs.
"There is a great mobilization, this is more than I have known in recent history... because it's so clear that he was railroaded, the witnesses lied. We have all the evidence now," she said.
"It has energized people, there are a lot of organizations all across the US and all across the world, not necessarily focused on death penalty regularly, because they say that this is an injustice that we all should pay attention to. Because if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone."
The petitions delivered to the Georgia parole board included signatures from 26 former death row prisoners who were exonerated of their crimes.
The US Supreme Court became involved in 2009 and ordered a federal judge in Savannah to convene a hearing to consider new evidence.
In August 2010, however, a US District Court in Georgia ruled that Davis had failed to prove his innocence and denied him a new trial. The top US court turned down a subsequent appeal.
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